- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

VIRGINIA BEACH — Prosecutors in the John Allen Muhammad sniper trial yesterday wheeled into the courtroom a full-size replica of the back end of a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice to show jurors how a sniper could use the trunk as a secretive shooting nest.

In a videotape recording shown to the jury, Prince William County police officers wearing camouflage pants demonstrated how a man of Mr. Muhammad’s size could crawl into the back of the Caprice, position himself and shoot a rifle through a hole cut in the trunk just above the license plate.

The videotape ended with a slow-motion depiction of a rifle firing twice, a flash of light and puff of smoke coming out of the barrel.

Defense attorney Peter D. Greenspun objected repeatedly and vehemently to the videotape and the earlier presentation of a model of the Caprice. His cross-examination of Prince William police Officer Ralph H. Daigneau, who helped make the video, was marked by an angry exchange that prompted Mr. Greenspun to ask for a mistrial.

Mr. Greenspun asked Officer Daigneau whether the officers in the video had practiced their routine multiple times before recording.

“Just as your defendant could have done,” Officer Daigneau said, startling Mr. Greenspun.

The defense attorney strode toward the witness stand and began to say something, then walked away and crossed his arms to control himself.

Mr. Greenspun walked back to the witness stand and planted himself in front of Officer Daigneau, saying in a loud voice, “Officer, of your own personal knowledge, do you know where Dean Meyers was shot from?”

Mr. Muhammad, 42, is on trial in the Oct. 9, 2002, fatal shooting of Dean Harold Meyers, 53, at a Manassas gas station. He and fellow suspect Lee Boyd Malvo, 18, were arrested last year in a Chevrolet Caprice with a hole in the trunk and a rifle that has been linked to a string of sniper shootings in the Washington area last October.

After Officer Daigneau left the courtroom, Mr. Greenspun asked for a bench conference with Prince William Circuit Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr.

“I asked for a mistrial,” he said outside the courtroom.

Judge Millette made no mention of the comment during proceedings.

Ballistics experts testified earlier yesterday that their tests had linked 12 of the 13 Washington-area sniper attacks to the .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle found with the suspects.

Firearms expert Walter A. Dandridge Jr. of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) testified that he found “microscopic fingerprints” on bullet fragments recovered at 13 of the shootings, three of which were nonfatal. He told jurors he saw the same pattern on the fragments of each bullet.

“They were identical from one scene to the next scene to the next scene,” Mr. Dandridge said.

Not all of the shootings linked ballistically to the Bushmaster rifle were part of the Washington-area sniper shootings. One shooting linked to the Bushmaster was the Sept. 21, 2002, slaying of Claudine Lee Parker, 52, at a Montgomery, Ala., liquor store. Another was the Sept. 23, 2002, fatal shooting of Hong Im Ballenger, 45, outside a Baton Rouge, La., beauty-supply store.

Prosecutors say the defendant and Mr. Malvo shot several victims in September last year to equip themselves with money, a computer and other tools, and to give themselves experience. They were preparing for their shooting spree in October, when they tried to extort $10 million from the government, prosecutors say.

The names of each victim were read aloud, and then the small, twisted bullet fragments were presented in court. Thirteen times, Mr. Dandridge repeated that the ballistics test matched each bullet to the Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle found in Mr. Muhammad’s car, “to the exclusion of all other firearms.”

Alan Jackson, a ballistics expert with Prince George’s County Police, said tests linked two other September shootings to a small .22-caliber revolver found next to a building where Mr. Malvo was chased by a police officer after the Montgomery, Ala., shooting.

Paul J. LaRuffa, 55, shot and wounded in Clinton, Md., on Sept. 5, 2002, and Muhammad Rashid, 32, shot and wounded in Brandywine, Md., on Sept. 15, 2002, were both shot with that same revolver, Mr. Jackson told the jury.

Joe Saloom of the Alabama Department of Forensics Sciences told jurors that when the revolver was recovered, one fired round was found in the cylinder and it appeared that the gun had jammed when the trigger was pulled a second time.

A second victim, Kellie Adams, 24, was shot next to Mrs. Parker in Montgomery, but she survived. A medical examiner said Ms. Adams was shot by a bullet fired from a high-powered rifle. Witnesses said Mr. Malvo stood over the two women as they lay on the ground, rifling through their purses, and then ran when police arrived.

Mr. Greenspun objected to the Caprice replica and the video, but succeeded in keeping another exhibit — a cutout portion of a Caprice trunk with a replica of the shooting hole — out of the courtroom.

“The commonwealth doesn’t know what happened here, and they’re inviting the jury to speculate based on incomplete and inaccurate speculation,” he told Judge Millette, without the jury present. “The commonwealth just wants to incite things with this jury.”

Prince William Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert said, “They can see this and visualize it. They need to know how this could happen. And this shows how it could happen. It’s unusual.”

Judge Millette agreed with Mr. Ebert.

“It might help the jury conclude that [the suspects] committed the crime the way the commonwealth says they did,” he said.

The videotape’s depiction showed Mr. Muhammad as the triggerman, even though Mr. Malvo has confessed twice to having pulled the trigger in several shootings. Mr. Muhammad is 6-foot-1 and weighs about 180 pounds; Mr. Malvo is 5-foot-7 and weighs about 150 pounds.

The teenager goes on trial Monday in neighboring Chesapeake for the Oct. 14, 2002, fatal shooting of Linda Franklin, 47, at a Falls Church Home Depot.


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